Monday, March 26, 2007


I am watching a nature show about winged migration. A bird with a broken wing is being stalked and attacked by sand crabs on a sea shore. Now there is a pulsating, shifting pile of crabs atop the bird, eating it. ! What a fascinating series of images! There are many archetypal rivalries in the natural world - lions and gazelles, sperm whales and giant squids, dogs and mailmen, gerbils and fax machines. I could never have imagined that birds and crabs would share a place among them. The crabs have a strange, darting attack that would be hard to take seriously - they walk sideways, so they are leading their attack not with mandibles or claws, but with their quick, slender legs. Imagine being confronted by a mugger who pranced towards you sideways, not even looking at you.

I am sad that they didn't show the takedown - the moment where the quick, darting advances of the crabs offered an opening and they pulled down their prey. How did they do it? They can't advance and attack at the same time, so they'd need a rather immobile prey, wouldn't they? I suppose the crabs have been doing such things for a long time, so they have probably figured it out.

Another bird has just speared a large fish with its sharp bill. It cannot swallow it because the fish is still impaled on its lower jaw. Now it's figured it out. I have decided that birds are cool. I have long had an affinity for penguins, but will now extend this affinity to other species as well.